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Las Americas, continued from page 13 And it’s not surprising that he would sign onto the IMF, either. He must feel quite at home there, in fact, after blathering away at the annual meetings in his Finance Ministerial capacity for some years as he contracted the hundreds of millions in debt that he, Fujimori, and spy network chief and hit man, Vladimiro Montesinos, would later steal. We do not mean to embellish or judge harshly, but these guys did not do a lot for your average Peruvian. Between 1990 and 2001 the Fujimori government sold more than 220 public enterprises to the private sector for a total of about $9.2 billion. Curiously, about $2 billion in sales expenses were then deductedwe’re guessing that this includes the broker’s fee, the title search, the termite inspection, the radon test and the like. This stuff really added upto more than one quarter of the value of the assets. But thenof the remaining $7 billion, only $4.4 billion actually wound up in the Treasury. You might have expected this, with Jorge and Fujimori handling the checkbook. A Peruvian congressional commission investigating the deals reported that the malfeasance included collusion, favoritism, undervaluing of properties, contract manipulation, unwarranted tax breaks, and insider dealing. One economist who worked on the investigation estimated that as much as $5 billion left the country for accounts in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands. Stealing five billion is a lot to get away with, and Jorge may not altogether escape. He remains in Buenos Aires awaiting extradition, where he is closely watched because he’s a flight risk. You have got to keep your eye on a guy like this. If you don’t, he’s apt to slip off to an airline office and get himself a ticket to some IMF outpost where the immigration folks sell cheap. But this kind of crime cuts two ways: It’s not just the people who took the money who are the problem. It’s also the people who paid it. Because whatever they paid to the likes of Jorge, they expected to wring back out of the general public one way or another. Plus interest and profit. With the help of the IMF. In the capitals of Free World nations, when sold-out academics, the subaltern intelligentsia, and political wipeouts gather over fine wine and meatballs to elaborate preposterous explanations for the horrors of the last 10 years in Latin America, this ugly fact does not often come up so crudely. In the wake of the in absentia trials of Fujimori and Baca Campodonico, another well-known Peruvian, Mario Vargas Llosa, held forth about this “dreadful situation” at the International Freedom Foundation in Madrid, a partially-owned subsidiary of the libertarian Cato Institute. In the course of his remarks, he never once mentioned the responsible corporate parties. Instead, he lamented the fact that Fujimori’s regrettable history on privatization now prevented the Peruvian government from continuing the same sell-off policies for public assets. Specifically, he mentioned a 2002 uprising in the highlands province of Arequipa that stopped the government from selling the province’s electric utilities to Belgium’s Tractebel. “The been, at bottom, not liberal but a caricature of liberal reform. We know that, but it is not known to the misinformed publica good number of whom are locked in a fierce battle for mere survival.” As a matter of fact. Knee-deep in his own pontifications, Mr. Vargas Llosa neglected to mention that Tractebel was a party to a number of corrupt privatization deals in Peru during the past ten years when these caricatures of liberal reforms were enacted and was implicated in a $10 million bribe for Fujimori. Fortunately for them, the profoundly misinformed and ignorant lumpen do know this and apparently are in no mood to put up with any more of it. Vargas Llosa went on to explain to his audience that one of the primary explanations for Latin America’s failure to “develop” is its lack of cultureby which he meant the lack of “a tool fundamental to the ability of men and women to make sound decisions in their personal lives, in their family lives, in their professional lives and above all, in politics when the time comes to make a decision.” Well, maybe so, but. it looks like the people who took to the streets in Arequipa knew enough about Tractebel to make an informed decision when the time came. Mr. Vargas Llosa’s remarks wire nevertheless greeted by a polite round of applause from the august members of the International Freedom! Foundation, who then presumably freshened their drinks and posed for ph4os, If we ourselves were truly venal and base, we might suspect that Mr. Vargas Llosa either owns shares of Tractebel or has finally flipped over completely into that weird little dream world he once only wrote about. So while Mr. Baca Campodonico, for whom the world has suddenly become all too real, cools his heels in Buenos Aires awaiting a free trip back to Lima, Tractebel goes about its business buying politicians, utilities, and large hunks of the national patrimony. \(Currently, one of its more abhorrent activities in Peru involves shoving a natural gas pipeline through the Amazon to Bolivia. We don’t even want to think about how many Jorges are lined up for a piece of right on shilling for the operation, while bemoaning the lack of judgment manifest by the uncultured masses, who had the poor taste and bad manners to pitch Tractebel out of Arequipa. He’s not discouraged by a couple of setbacks, and neither is Tractebel, which prides itself on “one philosophy infinite solutions.” This sounds dangerously single-minded, but the company has good reason for thinking it will get its wayit’s backed up by the IMF, which has an agreement with Peru obliging the government to sell off or concession its assets as part of its program of “sound macroeconomic policy” and “decentralization.” So whether Mr. Baca CampodOnico is part of the party or not, the sell-off and the rip-off rolls right on. Gabriela Bocagrande is a writer in Washington, D.C. 4/11/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29